Add a sanding pad and you’ve got a “Poor-Boy’s” Fret Level & Crown Tool!

What can this fret tool do for you?

  • Eliminate signs of fret wear
  • Quick & cheap “Level & Crown”
  • Speed up #400 – #1k polishing cycles at end of professional crowning process
  • Make your frets last much longer!

Materials Needed

  • 4″x3″ scrap block of wood from 1″ to 2″ thick
  • 3/8″ doweling or furring strips with edges rounded
  • Table router & 3/8″ round-nose bit if using dowels
  • Glue
Original fret renewal tool
This is similar to the one I saw used in the seventies

Fret Renewal Tool: Old & New Models

I first saw one of these fret tools at a luthier’s shop in Houston back in the early seventies. His was made of a 2×4 block of wood and 1/2″x1/2″ wood strips with the outer corners rounded, then glued directly (no routed grooves) onto the block.

I don’t think sanding pads were available back then. The luthier used some sort of thin sponge fastened to the block, then held whichever grit of sandpaper he needed for the task at hand, over the sponge.

In cases where fret wear wasn’t terrible (deep grooves), he’d start with #220 or #300 sandpaper, working up and down the fretboard with an even pressure that followed the fret radius.

Light-colored wood fretboards were taped first and nuts usually removed.

Once wear was filed away, he’d switch to finer and finer grits until it was time to polish the frets.

When I got back into the guitar repair business, several years ago, I copied his design but used 1/2″ dowels glued into routed grooves in the 2×4 block. While that did the job fairly well, the crowns weren’t as rounded as I liked.

My latest model of the fret renewal tool

With the extra time I now have since semi-retiring from repair work, I’ve redesigned the fret tool using a thinner dowel (3/8″ diameter) for better crowns and a thinner block (1″ thick) that makes it easier to grip the sanding pad.

I use 1/2″ thick sanding foams at #220 grit for the first passes. I hold a sheet of sandpaper over the foam when I want finer grits (#300, #400, #600, #800) for the later passes.

I can’t stress enough, how important it is to use an even pressure, work all frets with the same amount of passes and pressure and follow your fretboard radius.

After that, I clean unfinished, dark-wood fretboards with Naptha and #0000 steel wool. I skip the steel wool on other fretboards and just use Naptha and a rag. I finish by polishing the frets with a Dremel tool; polishing wheel and red rouge.

My final step is to protect the fretboard. I use furniture polish on unfinished, dark-wood fretboards and Nu-Finish on other types.

Don’t have time to make your own? Buy one of my fret renewal tools (click link)

fret crowning renewal tool
DIY Fret Level Crown - renewal tool
Before and after assembly
fret crown renewal tool
Just add sanding pad and renew those fret crowns!

Caveat

If you have grooves in your frets or if you have to replace a fret or two, this method will not work for you. Your only alternative is a “real” level and crown fret job.

I’ve just written a book about how to do Level & Crown fret jobs (well, we’re in the third draft, almost ready to publish), so stay tuned.